Zoff: “Juve know how to defend”

Barcelona have been told that they will struggle to score at will when they face the Serie A leaders in the Champions League quarter-finals

Juventus great Dino Zoff has backed the Serie A champions to contain Barcelona’s fearsome ‘MSN’ forward line.

Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar were all on the scoresheet as Luis Enrique’s side produced a miraculous comeback to defeat Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 at Camp Nou last week and book their place in the Champions League quarter-finals.

They will meet Juve in the last eight in a repeat of the final of 2015, in which Barca triumphed 3-1 to clinch the treble in Luis Enrique’s first season in charge.

But while Zoff acknowledges the strength of Barca’s attacking trio, he believes a repeat of their goalscoring heroics against PSG would be impossible against Massimiliano Allegri’s side, footballbets.tips disagree with this, saying over 3.5 is a safe bet on this one.

“That could never happen with Juventus,” the former Italy goalkeeper, who won six league titles with Juve, told Catalunya Radio.

“The Bianconeri have character and great players. It simply wouldn’t be possible for them to do that.

“All the Juve players are dangerous. Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain are fantastic, but the real strength of the side lies in the defence.

“Messi, Neymar and Suarez are a trio who can create a lot of problems, but we’re Juve, and we know how to defend.”

Caixinha: Rangers are the biggest club in Scotland

Despite the club sitting a massive 33 points behind their arch-rivals in the league, Caixinha insists the Gers are the biggest club in the country

New Rangers boss Pedro Caixinha says he has taken over the biggest club in Scotland as he begins the challenge of restoring the club to its former glories.

Caixinha, most recently in charge of Al Gharafa in Qatar, has signed a three-year contract at Ibrox to replace Mark Warburton, who left in chaotic circumstances last month.

Celtic’s dominance of Scottish football has been unrivalled in the wake of Rangers being liquidated, reformed and forced to climb back up the divisions, starting from the fourth tier in 2012-13.    

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But in a dig at Brendan Rodgers’ side, Caixinha says it is Rangers who are the biggest team in the Old Firm rivalry.

“We are talking about a worldwide club,” he told Rangers TV.

“It is a massive club – the biggest club in Scotland. It is one club that is fighting to get on top again and we know we are going to get on the top. 

“That is what we are here for, and the challenge is to help the club, to rebuild that path, the history and the glory – it is the main reason that brought us to this challenge.”

Caixinha was pressed on his claim as he was unveiled to the media on Monday and responded by saying: “I give you two numbers – 144 years old and 54 league titles.

“That is more than enough. We trust the players we have right now. For us this is the best squad in Scotland and we just need to give them that confidence.”

Go behind the scenes with @RangersTV and @PedroCaixinha on his first day at the @RangersFC as he toured the training centre & met staff. pic.twitter.com/b7ZWhBH5GA

— RangersTV (@RangersTV) March 13, 2017

Caixinha watched Rangers’ battling 1-1 draw at Celtic from the stands on Sunday and revealed his short-term targets include finishing second in the Premiership and tasting Scottish Cup glory this season.

The 46-year-old added: “In a massive club like this, I would identify three points – the history, the trophies and the fans. 

“Regarding the goals, at all times we must focus on the trophies, and we are in the cup semi-final [against Celtic], so we need to think about winning that trophy.

“We need to think also about getting as close as possible to second positon in the league. We are now eight points below.

“You need to be ambitious, but you need to be realistic at the same time. We are being totally ambitious and realistic in saying that we would like to end up in the second position, and why not try to get a trophy in the Scottish Cup too?”

'We feel that we are getting closer' – Carrick sees Manchester United bridging Chelsea gap

The England international believes the Red Devils have bridged any gulf in class which separated the two teams during a 4-0 Blues win in October

Michael Carrick believes Manchester United have made huge progress in closing the gap to Chelsea despite being 17 points behind them in the Premier League.

Chelsea host injury-hit United in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Monday, five months on from their 4-0 top-flight victory over Jose Mourinho’s side.

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Carrick insists the occasion is not about a chance for revenge, but feels the gap has been vastly reduced since their last visit to Stamford Bridge.

“You can’t say we have got a score to settle,” Carrick told reporters ahead of a game which is expected to see United without Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Wayne Rooney as well as the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimoivc.

Chelsea Manchester United

“There is plenty has happened over the years so it is just a new game and a chance for us to go further in the competition and they will say the same.

“We have lost only one in 28 games now since that Chelsea defeat so we have had a good run of form.

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“They have gone on a great run so you have got to respect what they have done. It is not easy in this league to go on such a run.

“We have gone on a good run ourselves but we have just had too many draws at home and that has killed us.

“We feel that we are getting closer but you have got to respect them, they are a good team, they are well drilled.”

Vintage Scholesy against Chelsea! #MUFC pic.twitter.com/i6HrnQUIbo

— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 12, 2017

Carrick continued: “It is a massive game, a one-off game, so we are looking forward to it. We are in pretty good form ourselves and they are obviously having a great season so far in the Premier League.

“They have been able to field pretty much the same team all season which I think has helped them and they have not had European competition to worry about.

“But they still had to go out and get the results and they have done that so you have still got to respect them for that.”

Kurt Happy Zouma reveals Van Damme inspiration behind his unusual name

The Chelsea defender says his parents named him after a famous character from the movie ‘Kickboxer’, while his middle name is pretty self-explanatory

Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma has revealed that his parents took inspiration from a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie when deciding what to call him.

The Frenchman, whose middle name is Happy, appears to be have been cut from the same stone as the famous actor that has graced many a Hollywood movie down the years.

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Among those was the 1989 production ‘Kickboxer’, where the Belgian played the character Kurt Sloan.

Zouma is now a no-nonsense man mountain in his own right, with the 22-year-old a centre-half that few opponents relish tangling with.

Kurt Zouma Van Damme

He told the Football Association about his naming story: “My parents were watching a film and it starred Jean-Claude Van Damme.

“He was killing everyone in the movie and at the end of the movie, they saw that his name was Kurt.

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“They said, okay we’ll call this kid Kurt and we’ll put Happy [as his middle name] because he will always be happy.”

Zouma had to conjure up all of his powers of positivity during a recent spell on the sidelines.

Kurt Zouma

His character, and name, stood him good stead, with a return to competitive action made against Peterborough in January after almost a year nursing his way back from a cruciate knee ligament injury.

Zouma, who has Manchester United in his sights as the Premier League heavyweights prepare to meet in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, added: “I had a bad injury so I needed to look after it.

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“You are waiting and waiting, but I was always laughing with the boys and my family, and you say this is the life.

“Playing FA Cup games was very good for me to help get my level back, and it’s a good competition because we want to win it.”

'It wasn't easy' – Zidane lauds Madrid as persistence pays off

The head coach heaped praise on Los Blancos following Sunday’s 2-1 comeback win over Real Betis

Real Madrid showed patience is a virtue as head coach Zinedine Zidane praised his players for their persistence in Sunday’s late win over Real Betis.

Ramos calls for Madrid focus

Captain Sergio Ramos stepped up to be the hero again for Madrid with his 81st-minute goal in the 2-1 La Liga victory at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Cristiano Ronaldo had cancelled out Betis’ 24th-minute opener before the break but the match appeared to be petering out for a draw until Ramos completed another late escape as Madrid returned to the top of the table following Barcelona’s 2-1 loss at Deportivo La Coruna.

“My evaluation of the match is very good because we picked up the three points,” Zidane said.

“We didn’t have it all our own way and that’s normal, but I am happy. We must congratulate all the players because we’ve had to be patient. The result in the end is a fair one, even if at times it didn’t all go our way.
 
“The opposition played in their own half, they defended well and caused us problems on the counter-attack. We’re happy with the result and we must congratulate the players because it wasn’t easy. The pressure is there, it doesn’t end here, there’s still a lot to play for and we know that.”

Zidane also leapt to the defence of goalkeeper Keylor Navas, whose own goal gifted the visitors the lead in the Spanish capital.

“It’s part of the game, everyone makes mistakes. In the end he saved us. I’m happy with how his team-mates got behind him,” added Zidane, who said defender Raphael Varane is unlikely to be fit for the trip to Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

“The save he made has given us the three points. The referee decides whether or not it’s a penalty. Keylor has a big personality and he made a great stop at the end. He made up for the mistake and made sure we got all three points.”